Climate Change concerns

Dear Lieutenant Governor Mallott,

We write to you today with great concern over the effects of climate change on Alaska. We have the opportunity and the responsibility to take a front seat in the global fight against climate change. To that end, we urge you to reconstitute the Alaska Climate Working Group and to join the United States Climate Alliance. We are delighted by your appointment of Nikoosh Carlo as Special Advisor for Climate and hope that this signals greater attention by your administration to this vital issue.

In Alaska, climate change already threatens our way of life. From erosion of coastal communities, to changing fisheries and ocean acidification, to increased travel through previously frozen Arctic Ocean passages, the impacts of climate change pose some of the greatest challenges and opportunities of our generation. By demonstrating climate leadership, we will signal to the world that we are prepared to meet these challenges while protecting our communities and citizens most at risk.

The U.S. Climate Alliance is a bipartisan, multi-state forum launched with the goal of understanding and addressing climate change by sharing resources and best practices. Governors from 13 states including Hawaii, Washington, Colorado, and Vermont have joined this group to show their commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, with our deep ties to the oil and gas industry, we would offer a unique perspective that would strengthen the Alliance. It is the intention of the Alliance to develop working groups to tackle challenges and promote financing of climate-friendly infrastructure. Alliance States commit to meeting their share of greenhouse gas emissions as defined under the Paris Accord, something Alaska was already well on its way to accomplishing.

Alaskans know all too well climate change is happening. We must continue to be an intellectual leader for research on the changing climate, and a laboratory for technologies that may someday protect communities all over the globe. We encourage you and Governor Walker to take the steps necessary to show the world, from green investors, to scientists, to those inspired by our natural beauty, that Alaska will have a seat at the table.

Sen. Berta Gardner, Sen. Tom Begich, Sen. Dennis Egan, Sen. Donny Olson, Sen. Bill Wielechowski; ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE
Anchorage, Alaska

Civil war in Alaska over the Dividend?

As the Legislature reconvenes at the call of Governor Walker, Alaskans must beware. Your Permanent Fund is under attack by those who would spend your money on more government rather than manage the budget and maintain your dividend.

Alaska Statute is explicit: pay dividends for 50% of the average five year earnings period. Governor Hammond and Governor Hickel supported the dividend, fought for it. The dividend connects Alaskans to the Fund and protects it.

To begin the process of gutting the Fund, Governor Walker vetoed half the dividend last year and allowed Legislators this year to set the dividend at $1,100. Statutorily, it should be $2,300. The dividend cuts are an egregious and regressive tax on each Alaskan. They harm the retail sector in recession and hurt people who need them most.

This abrogation of elected officials to follow the law can be stopped through a Constitutional Amendment. In 1976, Alaskans voted Constitutional protection of the principle of the Fund. Let’s finish the job and protect our dividend.

This Legislature can pass Constitutional protection. Then the people can vote. An Amendment must pass the Legislature by two thirds or by Constitutional Convention. Governor Walker opposes Constitutional protection of your dividend. He has capitulated to big spenders who will never be satisfied until they get the Fund.

A Percentage of Market Value was introduced again to set the pay out at 5% of the Fund, regardless of earnings. Legislators choked, remembering the last advisory vote rejecting that change. In 1999, the people voted 83% to 17% to stop that raid on the Fund and will do so again in 2018 if the Legislature joins another raid.

Why do Alaskans get a dividend each year? It is not a government handout, free money, a violation of conservative principles or an attractant to ne’er do wells. For thirty five years, the Fund has operated efficiently, earned money and paid a portion of investment earnings to the owners of the Fund, the Alaskan shareholders. Every man, woman and child living here more than one year can qualify. Shareholders are annually paid a portion of the earnings from their investment account.

The Fund is a trust which operates on behalf of all shareholders in a similar fiduciary responsibility to a bank. The investments are not owned by the state or the APF Corporation. The people’s Fund (now $61 billion) grows through prudent investments. Last year’s earnings were $6.8 billion. Special interests are spending millions to convince you that your Fund is just another government account. It’s not, you own it.

Investopedia.com defines dividend as “a distribution of a portion of a company’s earnings, decided by the board of directors, to a class of its shareholders.” Enterprises meet budgets and make profits for their shareholders.

If Microsoft shareholders had dividends cut in half, management would correct the earnings deficit or be fired by the shareholders. Exxon Directors would be discharged by shareholders if an arbitrary cut were made. ASRC or Cook Inlet Region shareholders earn dividends from their enterprises plus as shareholders of the APFC. We have $12 billion in fund earnings reserves. Governors Hickel and Hammond saw Fund dividends as the finest example of our owner state.

The purpose of the Alaska Permanent Fund is to earn money for Alaskans. Then we decide how much of the earnings to spend on government and how much is for dividends. The existing statute has worked fine at 50/50 since the first dividend was paid in 1982. Add General fund earnings to Permanent Fund earnings and understand we do not a fiscal crisis. Governor Hammond’s fiscal plan worked. Our billions in reserves prove we can manage the budget without cutting Alaskans’ dividends.

The Alaska Permanent Fund will only be protected when Alaskans say, just as we did in 1999, that we accept no change in the distribution of the Fund’s earnings without a vote of the people.

Jim Crawford is the new president of Permanent Fund Defenders, an Alaska based educational nonprofit corporation based in Eagle River, Alaska. Jim is a lifelong Alaskan who co-chaired the Alaskans Just Say No campaign to stop the raid on the Permanent Fund in 1999. He also served Governor Hammond as a member of the Investment Advisory Committee which formed the investment and corporate strategy of the Alaska Permanent.

Jim Crawford, President
Permanent Fund Defenders

Imagine this

Imagine the Donlin Creek gold mine between the Kuskokwim and Yukon Rivers–guaranteed destruction of subsistence resources–on land, in the rivers, in the ocean, in the atmosphere. Shareholders must protect their land; no one else will.

Gilbert Keywehak
Mount Pleasant MI

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